Sunday, January 14, 2007

Interview Thoughts 2: So Why & Where?

Well, in the second part of my interview thoughts, I'm going to begin by discussing something which seems to make up the mainstay of most interviews: WHY?

Namely, why you and why are you interested in the profession? (Please note, I'm going to use parts of my usual cover letter in answering this).

Well, I'm interested in the communications industry (and particularly in advertising, as it happens) because it relates to what makes me tick generally - I like finding out about people; what makes them tick, why they react the way they do to stimuli, be it a bold picture of marketing communications, a Rorschach test, a celebrity or a clever piece of writing.

And indeed, the download in my sidebar often helps when explaining to companies just why I think I'd be a good fit for the industry (or at least helps them realise just what makes me tick).

So anyway, people are the reason I want to work in this communications game. I like talking (as you will undoubtedly have noticed when you meet me - perhaps a little too much in the interview game, if I'm honest) and I like to write my thoughts down. It's why I enjoy keeping this blog.

I realise in terms of life experiences I'm never ever going to be one of those people who have mastered 6 languages and lived abroad for a massive amount of years before returning to take up the mantle of the communications biz. No, I'm a 22 year old from Worcestershire, someone who loves music, reading and writing (the very three things Russell mentioned in his podcast with Jon Steel that are things everyone says), as well as a host of other random interests. I'd also like to learn to play the guitar/piano at some point, if only to realise just how hard it is.

However, I think in terms of latent curiosity, enthusiasm and general appreciation of marketing communications, I can rival most candidates. Advertising plays to my strengths, and belief that the best communication messaging is always inherently simplistic, despite the rapidly changing communications mix.
My thoughts should be fairly clear (if you read the blog even vaguely) of where I think good communications lies, but in terms of the industry, I think the era of ‘Web 2.0’ has created a culture where any consumer can quickly publish their thoughts about a brand, putting them on a far greater platform to air their views. Indeed, as the Coke/Mentos YouTube videos demonstrate, brand owners cannot easily control just how their products are utilised.

The power of conversation, of a dialogue with a consumer rather than a ‘top down’, dictatorial and enforced message is something which I feel strongly about. In this new communications era, I believe that the ability to generate conversations in order to engage with your consumer will be incredibly important. Indeed, what will continue to endure will be authenticity and storytelling; if you can't do this, you are liable to be found out, as Sony found out here.

So, I think the why has been adequately explained. So WHERE do I see myself fitting into this new mix of communications?
Well, I'll be quite honest with you; much as I dislike the term 'creative generalist', I do think there are elements of all of the 3 main agency outposts which I could do and would enjoy.
I like account handling in so much as the idea of being able to maintain a relationship with a client and helping to present the creative work greatly appeals to me. The administrative nature of this doesn't massively appeal - but I'm willing to do it; hell, every modern day job has an element of this, right from a temp job to being the MD. I'd like a hand in the strategy though, and worry that the role of an account man has massively changed since the days of Frank Lowe, the Saatchi brothers and others, to simply not allow for much strategic thought.
Planning then; and seeing how I've been told by all and sundry in the industry that I'm a planner, I should be most inclined towards this. It is true, I like to think I'm a reasonable strategic thinker, and I love the idea of helping to write the creative brief, as well as mining insights from people and research. Yet, the prospect of being told to 'justify the idea' as I feel some planners are, doesn't appeal in some ways. However, of all of the suggestions, it's the one I lean the most strongly towards (especially given the fact that Russell, Richard and many others seem to think so).
I'll be honest, I've even thought about Copywriting. I think this crosses every English grad's mind, and I like to think I can write well. It's more of a pipe dream to be honest - I don't think I could come up with enough original ideas; sure would be fun to try and crack the odd creative brief.
So yes, out of all of those, I'd be a Planner, first and foremost. Where in the world? Well, I'd like to learn my trade in this country, then move further afield when I know what I'm doing.
What would you do readers, and what are your thoughts?


Paul H. Colman said...

Morning WAM,

Are you interested in messaging or branding? I think too many people want to get into advertising because of the attraction of some of the techniques used in messaging (TV spots etc). Where as I think you'll become a much better planner if your focus is the brand, rather than simply the message. Agencies will value this thinking more and more as the media landscape changes.

Don't worry about justifying the idea, worry about having the idea.

Good luck.

beeker said...

I'm with Paul on this one. I was told at my first interviews that you need to be able to think from the outside in of course, but also from the inside out.

ie. get good at assessing campaigns, but also get used to originating ideas from the brand out. People understand if you don't have the information an agency would have to help do this, but they appreciate the creativity in giving it a go. And it sounds like you have enough interesting beginnings of ideas to write three of four good plans for the Kodak brand, for example.

Whatever kind of 'creative generalist' you end up being, if you can develop your own ideas creatively, I think you'll always be valuable.

neil perkin said...

I agree with beeker and Paul. You seem to me to made a decision already - why procrastinate? Let the planner within be free...

Will said...

Thanks very much for the comments.

I'm pretty much set on the idea of becoming a planner, but (as the post alludes to), I do like aspects of the other areas as well.

The advice about 'thinking like the brand' is very useful; could anyone suggest any tips for the best way of doing this, or is it simply immersing yourself in the marketplace/the product in question?

Was posed another interesting question today about Gordon's Gin, and how I'd market it for the 25-30 year old crowd. Ideas about that are still their infancy, but I may blog about that in a little while.

Oh, and Neil - I like the blog a lot.

Lebowski said...

Some thoughts apropos of nothing:
Immerse yourself in the brand.
Don't worry about consumer insight and all that nonsense - leave that to the media agencies and their TGI. Good brands do their thing well and people like it - on that basis you shouldn't need a consumer insight for your advertising - just tell the truth in an interesting way.
Don't start with TV. In fact, try and end with film. What comes before that - trade marketing, internal stuff, promotions, events are more interesting, more important to the business and possibly creatively inspiring because they force you to think in different ways.
As a planner worry about justifying ideas only in that you need to be open-minded to having a great idea which may not come from the brief and a big part of your job will be finding a way to post-rationalise it so some clients can say "Oh yes, I can see how that clearly comes from the brief".

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